Having just announced the appointment of Claire Smith-Warner and teased at a spring launch date for new products, now seemed as good a time as any to catch up with Seedlip
It’s hard to believe the non-alcoholic spirit, founded by Ben Branson, is only two years old. To date, Garden 108 and Spice 94 have graced more than 100 Michelin-starred restaurants and many of the best bars in the world. It has reigned supreme. But, some companies – large and small – look set to disrupt the status quo.
‘It took me two years to create Seedlip,’ Branson told Imbibe. ‘We are now two years old, so I’ve been obsessed with this space for over four years and I still feel like we are just getting started, just literally scratching the surface.
‘We have learnt so much and the more we learn the less we know. But one thing that is crystal clear is that this category will continue to grow if corners are not cut and genuine care and quality is offered.’
Branson is of the opinion the young sector needs to make sure it doesn’t fall into the trap of running before it can walk.
If there aren’t more fantastic options created then something is wrong
‘I think 2018 is the year that the non-alcoholic (NA) category begins to establish itself in the market,’ the founder says. ‘It’s still very early days but I expect to see more products launching, some after a quick buck, some making really good quality meaningful options.’
Brands won’t be jostling for real estate, according to Branson. ‘With such a huge amount of space within the category, if there aren’t more fantastic options created then something is wrong.’
He predicts ‘big noise’ from the brewers, more alcohol-free breweries opening and more ‘adult-flavoured’ sodas over the next year. He also tips more ‘bar-suited’ formats of existing products like kombucha, coffee and teas.
And for Seedlip? ‘We have an incredibly exciting year ahead expanding our category. We need to continue to lead the way with Seedlip globally, educating both the trade and the consumer about our category and the opportunities that high-quality, grown up, great tasting NA drinks offer.
‘We have a new Seedlip product we are launching in the spring, which is exciting, and then we will be launching our new brands later this year.’
The on-trade has played a vital role in the ‘surreal growth’ Seedlip has experienced.
‘Bartenders, chefs and sommeliers are an influential community who are at the very forefront of defining what people eat and drink,’ Branson says. ‘These people want to provide their customers with the most memorable experience and the highest quality levels of hospitality.’
Appointing somebody who has spent the last decade working closely with the on-trade in her role leading the liquid development at Belvedere Vodka is not a happy accident.
‘Until Seedlip, the non-alcoholic sector has traditionally languished, made up of highly-confected, artificial drinks that are not inspiring or delicious,’ Smith-Warner says. ‘Having watched Seedlip’s global growth over the last two years, the opportunity to be part of leading this new category, with drinks that have the same product quality credentials as the premium beverage alcohol sector providing more sophisticated, complex choices for the non-drinker is extremely exciting.’
If the move from spirits with abv to ones without daunts Smith-Warner then she hides it well.
‘Great drinks are not defined simply by their abv,’ she says. ‘They are defined by their ability to enrich experiences, even a simple Seedlip & Tonic demonstrates this.
‘Having worked in the luxury drinks sector for many years, I am delighted to be maintaining the focus on ways to enrich the consumer drinking experience by creating more choices, and ultimately developing greater diversity within the drinks industry as a whole.’
Asked if others might make the jump, she says simply: ‘It wouldn’t be a great surprise to see some making the leap and help to continue drive the NA evolution.’